Bethlehem, the 9th of July 2011
We are a Parisian couple, 59 and 54 years old, with grown children. We have been interested in the Palestinian issue since a long time. As French citizens, we cannot stand the cowardly support of our governments to Israeli politics anymore, as well as the impunity that this state continues to enjoy. We feel the need to publicly demonstrate our indignation and to separate ourselves from the politicians who supposedly represent us.
We wished to join the « Welcome to Palestine » mission of the 8th of July, because it is a beautiful opportunity to visit and meet Palestinians. It is our first trip to Palestine.
Today, a day after our arrival, we joined a group of young Palestinians abroad a bus to join a demonstration organized by the Palestinian National Initiative (PNI) in Qalandia, in front of the wall, for the commemoration of the condemnation of the wall by the International Tribunal in The Hague.
Annie: My first surprise was the young age of the demonstrators and their warm welcome. The presence of a young Palestinian women was a very important element to me. The demonstration took place in a good ambiance, people were happy and serious at once. I felt no aggressiveness from these youth.
I felt immediately in solidarity of their movement and held with conviction the banner ‘THE WALL MUST FALL’.
The young demonstrators were very interested by the reasons of our presence amongst them. They were moved that Europeans share this action, are interested in their situation, the wall, their locking up, a young brother of 16 in prison for a year without visit, or a father, or an uncle…
I am very sensitive to the fact these youth cannot travel. They only know the world through media; they are thirsty for the world and feel forgotten.
Having arrived in front of the wall, I was shocked to see Israeli soldiers filming the demonstrators. Then I was again surprised that in front of these youth, in a peaceful demonstration, the soldiers used tear gas massively. The youth dragged me out of the reach of the gas and put me in safety in a car.
Pascal: The strongest feeling is the brutality that emanates by the simple sight of these soldiers. I knew these images from TV, but the close-range presence of those excessively armed RoboCops is impressive. When the demonstrators started retreating quickly – I suppose in front of the soldiers that started marching – I felt those youth ran away from possible bullets. We are here in a totally different context than in a demonstration in Paris or Marseille.
Three journalists from an Israeli TV station wanted to talk to me. They were disturbed by the content of my statements and my presence in the « wrong camp ». They insisted I should talk to some of the soldiers, through them. They were telling me: “they are good people, you can talk with them”. They are so convinced that their army is moral that good is on their side. I refused to talk to men placed in a killing machine mode.
A very intense day, that is still difficult to analyze and that will certainly help us understand the Palestinian reality. And we did not finish, we are still left with a week of experiences to live here thanks to the associations that have invited us.